| Self-Employed Women’s Association wins court victory in India |
The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) has finally won the right to become a central labour union after the Delhi High Court overruled the objections to its application. The letter below from Ela Bhatt, the founder of SEWA, to Marty Chen, WIEGO, celebrates this important step forward.
11th February 2005.
Thank you, thank you for your congratulations and joining us in our joy.
Yes, there has been a great pride and joy of victory. The unorganised sector workers have in last 3 decades have moved from visibility to
voice and now representation.
The women have taken leadership in this forward move as they had taken
the lead in ILO Convention on Homework. Gandhi said that in a fight for
social justice, where weapons are peace and truth, women are the natural
leaders – such is our experience throughout in SEWA.
There is also a sense of vindication after we were unceremoniously
ousted in 1981 from NLO, with whom SEWA was affiliated. NLO was under the
control of TLA, then.
Almost all CTUs of India had wooed us then to join them, but I realised
the need to stand on our feet – when our own parents like TLA could
not understand us and threw us out. At last now we have been able to join
the mainstream in our own right and hopefully soon voice and represent
the issues of the unorganised working poor, including women at national level.
When we started unionising self-employed women workers and those in
the informal sector in 1972, we did not have a blueprint or a model to copy
or follow. But it was clear then (and today) that it is these workers
who should be in the mainstream of the labour movement as they are the
vast majority (93%) of the working population of our country. By the
present Order of the Delhi High Court we have fulfilled that goal. Since a
vast number (if not majority) of this working population is women, it is
natural that the women take a lead in changing the profile of the labour movement.
However, first we have to successfully pass through the process
of verification to gain the status of the Central Labour Union, in India.
My joy of the victory is for the sustained loyal efforts of SEWA sisters
in mobilizing membership and my senior colleagues, devoted and competent
to pursue the right of verification.
Thanking you for your continued support to in strengthening SEWA’s
status as a labour union.
Ela R. Bhatt